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Key aspects of the ageing of human cells can be reversed by new compounds developed at the University of Exeter, research shows.

In a laboratory study of endothelial cells -- which line the inside of blood vessels -- researchers tested compounds designed to target mitochondria (the "power stations" of cells).

In the samples used in the study, the number of senescent cells (older cells that have deteriorated and stopped dividing) was reduced by up to 50%. The Exeter team also identified two splicing factors (a component of cells) that play a key role in when and how endothelial cells become senescent.

The findings raise the possibility of future treatments not only for blood vessels -- which become stiffer as they age, raising the risk of problems including heart attacks and strokes -- but also for other cells.

"As human bodies age, they accumulate old (senescent) cells that do not function as well as younger cells," said Professor Lorna Harries, of the University of Exeter Medical School.

"This is not just an effect of ageing -- it's a reason why we age.

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